Violent attacks on workers

boy lying face down on the floor with someone kneeling over them holding them down

Workers experienced violence in 45 countries.

Violent attacks on workers

Workers were exposed to violence in 45 countries in 2021. In several countries strikes and social protests were repressed with disproportionate force by the state armed forces. Endemic violence in the Americas and the Philippines continued to affect workers and their representatives. While workers in fewer countries were exposed to violence in 2021, this trend could be related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which restricted mass gatherings of people.

Workers' rights violations

Middle East and North Africa


Workers experienced violent attacks in 44% of countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Violent attacks on workers

In May 2020, the Arak criminal court in Iran sentenced forty-two workers from Azarab Industries, a manufacturing company that constructs components for power plants and refineries, to one year in prison, seventy-four lashes, and one month of forced labour for their participation in a protest to demand the payment of outstanding wages. The court ruled that the workers who took part in the demonstration were guilty of disrupting public order and insulting public officials.



Workers experienced violence in 35% of countries in Asia-Pacific.

Violent attacks on workers

On 26 August 2020, Khamid Istakhori, general secretary of Federasi SERBUK, was physically assaulted during a peaceful protest against the Omnibus Bill for Job Creation at the Simpang Tiga PT Tanjung Enim Lestari.

The peaceful workers’ protest became violent when company management personnel began to brutally disperse the workers. Istakhori tried to intervene and negotiate but instead he was beaten up. Suffering from bruises and wounds on his face, Istakhori was hospitalised. Days after, he still experienced dizziness, nausea and headaches.

Violent attacks on workers

In the early morning of 8 August 2020, the Indonesian police brutally dispersed fifty members of the Federation of Indonesian Pulp and Paper Workers Union (FSP2KI) who were carrying out a blockade in front of PT. Tanjungenim Lestari Pulp and Paper (TELPP) in Lampung Province. A hundred and twenty police officers assaulted and beat union members. Several women union members were sexually harassed by police officers during the dispersal.

The workers had been taking action in front of the company gates for sixty-five days in solidarity with thirty-eight members whose work contracts were discontinued by the outsourcing company PT. Kaliguma Transindo, when TELPP ended the contract and appointed a new outsourcing company. They demanded that the new outsourcing company rehire all the workers who were formerly employed by PT Kaliguma Transindo.

Violent attacks on workers

On 25 July 2020, the police in Dhaka, Bangladesh, violently attacked garment workers from Viyellatex and Shofi Tex who were protesting unpaid wages and allowances. Police used disproportionate force to suppress the protest, using batons, gunshots, tear gas and sound grenades against workers. As a result of the attack, twelve workers were severely injured.



Workers experienced violence in 33% of countries in Africa.

Violent attacks on workers

On 15 March 2020, the police brutally repressed a demonstration organised by various trade unions and civil society in Niamey, Niger, to demand an investigation into allegations of embezzlement by the Ministry of Defence. Security forces fired tear gas at the roofs of stores in the Tagabati market, triggering a fire. Moudi Moussa, journalist and trade unionist, and Halidou Mounkaila, leader of a teachers' union (SYNACEB), were arrested and arbitrarily detained for seven months.



Workers experienced violent attacks in 40% of countries in the Americas.

Violent attacks on workers

Violence against trade union leaders and workers is endemic in Honduras, especially in the agricultural sector, where companies do not hesitate to resort to thugs to threaten, harass and assault workers who attempt to form or join a union. In a recent study conducted among workers in the banana industry, 59% of women surveyed in non-union banana packing plants said that they faced sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work compared with nine percent of women at unionised packing plants. Non-union workers are 81% more likely to face verbal abuse than union workers.

Violent attacks on workers

On 22 July 2020, several people were injured when police repressed a peaceful protest at the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) in Belize City. The demonstration was organised by unionised workers of the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) to protest pay cuts and the dismissal of thirty-six employees. Mеmbеrѕ оf thе Gаng Ѕuррrеѕѕіоn Unіt intervened, using tеаr gаѕ аnd rubbеr bullеtѕ tо dіѕреrѕе thе сrоwd. Several people were injured, іnсludіng оnе whо wаѕ ѕhоt in thе hеаd with а rubbеr bullеt.



Workers experienced violent attacks in 12% of countries in Europe.

Violent attacks on workers

On 1 July 2020, during a protest organised by the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU) and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) near the office of the president of Ukraine in Kyiv, unidentified police officers advanced on workers and began beating them up, inflicting injuries to many. The police also illegally confiscated property (tents and personal items) belonging to NPGU.

Violent attacks on workers

On 24 November 2020, Turkish police cracked down on members of Birlesik Metal-Is union, which had organised a march from Gebze to Ankara to protest the unfair dismissal of workers in several companies and the use of COVID-19 as an excuse to single out trade union members for unpaid leave. A massive police presence prevented the start of the march, and a hundred and nine members of Birlesik Metal-Is were taken into police custody. Video footage of the arrests shows extensive police brutality in the process.

Workers experienced violent attacks in 45 countries. In Hong Kong, state armed forces used violence to repress pro-democracy demonstrations.Isaac Lawrence / AFP

Eight-year trend: violent attacks on workers